Bastian Schweinsteiger gets stuck into Fernandinho in his first Manchester derby
It has been over ten years since we witnessed a 0-0 draw in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Back then a raw Cristiano Ronaldo was menacing down the wings, Liam Miller patrolled the midfield alongside a much more memorable Roy Keane – whilst Roy Carroll kept a clean sheet against an attacking outlet of Steve McMananman, Nicholas Anelka and Shaun Wright-Phillips. The personnel may have changed significantly alongside the objectives of both clubs but it was the defence who came out on top in a match that showcased flashes of excitement, albeit these were indeed limited to only flashes.
Substitute Jesse Lingard came closest to opening the scoring after hitting the bar following a brilliant through ball by Antony Martial who was operating down the left hand side for United. City were very strong defensively through the middle – with Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi excellent in central defence and Fernandinho closing down the space in front of back four. The result was a fair one as Manchester City return to the top of the table, with United remaining in fourth – just two points behind.
0-0 but glimpses of class throughout
We remember the 5-0 United victory in 1994 and of course, we can’t forget the 6-1 defeat to City in 2011/12 – with both fixtures providing bucket loads of goals in contrast to the stingy defensive display on show at Old Trafford today. Despite the strict tactical discipline imposed by Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini there were glimpses of the quality that has made this fixture so valuable to the victor in the quest for the title. Anthony Martial was excellent on the left hand side and his pace to drift past defenders with ease will please United fans, whilst frightening fullbacks, for many years to come.
Juan Mata had a quiet game given his importance in this fixture last season, whilst Ander Herrera impressed in pacthes – but really needed to get on the ball more often. There was a suggestion of a penalty with a awkward challenge from Raheem Sterling on Herrera. There was a tangle of legs and referee Mark Clattenburg gave another corner. United manager Louis van Gaal wasn’t pleased with the decision and stated – post match – that Manchester City were “lucky” to come away with a point.
We should have had a penalty on Ander Herrera. It is easy to see for me but I have a replay. The referee has one second. I always say we need the modern technology but I am the only one in the desert calling for it.”
– Louis van Gaal post 0-0 draw
Morgan Schneiderlin continues to remind United fans of the type of defensive midfielder that was needed at the club for some years – with a typically assured performance. The Frenchman also showcased his long range passing, hitting a number of passes to countryman Martial on the left hand side of the pitch. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were rarely troubled through the middle, whilst Raheem Sterling – a £49million signing from Liverpool in the summer, was substituted having not been able to get anything out of Antonio Valencia.
At the other end of the pitch, Wayne Rooney got little joy in his tussles with pigeon chested centre half Nicolás Otamendi – who was excellent throughout. Constantly hunting down the ball, giving Rooney limited space to operate in and winning numerous headers. The Argentine was a reported target for Louis van Gaal over the summer and it is clear to see why City forked out £28.5million for the former Valencia player. Chances were limited to wide areas for United, which is a testament to how difficult it was to create anything through the centre of the park.
Marcos Rojo was impressive throughout the match and marshalled Manchester City’s record signing Kevin De Bruyne with ease. The Argentine put in a great cross in the fixture against Everton for Ander Herrera to score and Louis van Gaal was full of praise for his left back – who has been filling in there since the long term injury to Luke Shaw picked up in the match against PSV Eindhoven. Rojo has always looked more assured at centre half, but of course played in the World Cup final at left back and looked particular comfortable against the Belgian.
Over the past five seasons, United have won the title twice, City twice and Chelsea picked up the championship last season. In 2011, United picked up four points in the fixture and went on to win the league. In 2012, City picked up all six points and went on to win the league – just. 2013 came and United won back the title with a 3-2 win at The Etihad but lost the home game in March 2-1, however – United had a fifteen point lead going into the match and wrapped up the title a few weeks later. 2014 saw Sir Alex Ferguson replaced by David Moyes, who lost both matches against City – who went on to win the title, with United finishing in seventh – the lowest position since the 1989/90 season.
Will the fixture in March decide the fate of the Premier League title? With Chelsea out of the picture, it looks as if there will be a three horse race between Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs.
Anthony Martial is a superb talent that will only get better
When Roy Keane was smashing home the winner in a 3-2 victory over City back in the Autumn of 1993, Anthony Martial wasn’t even born. United’s sides consisted of some great young talent including Keane, Sharpe and Ryan Giggs. Keane and Giggs, of course, went on to become legends of the club and there is a lot of focus on United’s new young talent who really does not seem to be phased by any occasion that he plays in. He has scored the winner on his debut, he has slotted a cool brace home against Southampton and he has rescued a point for United in a difficult away tie in Europe.
“I think we can take a lot of confidence from this game. We more than held our own and we had the better of the chances, so I think we are still in the title race.”
– Chris Smalling post match
Against Manchester City, he was exciting every time he got on the ball. He was able to burst away from Bacary Sagna time and time again, whether it be on the outside or cutting in. When he did the latter late in the second half, he put in a superb chipped pass straight into the path of Jesse Lingard – who smashed the ball against the bar. It was a perfectly example of the young Frenchman’s athleticism combined with his vision and ability to execute the pass. His pace is something of a rarity in a United front line that consists of Wayne Rooney, who has lost that burst of pace he had when he was a youngster and Juan Mata – who has never been blessed with any pace.
There are of course areas where he need to improve. A few times he attempted to take on one more defender than he should of done and also didn’t release the ball in time. Two criticisms that were also aimed at a young Cristiano Ronaldo, before he developed into the best player in the world. Martial already looks a mature act that will no doubt improve on even more so now that he is under the watchful eye of Louis van Gaal – a manager who has aided the development of Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Xavi and Thomas Müller over the past twenty years.
Wayne Rooney has eleven goals in the Manchester derbies – more than any other player in history. He may not have got close to scoring today, but he will be a big player in this fixture for years to come and at 19 years of age, will not doubt challenge that record if indeed he continues to progress at this rate.